Underscoring its focus on nurturing ties with creative-minded directors and advertising agencies, TWC Films has rebranded as Cultivate.Media. The Santa Monica-based production company’s new name, logo and website are meant to suggest its mission to build relationships and the evolving nature of advertising production. “Our name speaks to our story,” says managing director/executive producer Mark Thomas. “We cultivate relationships with directors and we cultivate relationships with agency creatives to pursue our common goal of #doingfamouswork. That’s our hashtag.”
Cultivate.Media debuts with an expanded directorial roster. Continuing from TWC, are directors Abhinay Deo, Dean Blumberg, Gail Mancuso, Olivier Staub, Scotty Bergstein and Suthon Petchsuwan. Joining is the highly awarded Egyptian born director Ali Ali, as well as comedy director Matty Smith, and the directing team Indigenous. Hugh Bacher continues as executive producer. “We’re a company of storytellers, filmmakers and serious students of advertising,” Thomas says.
Senior agency producers who’ve worked with Thomas expressed enthusiasm for the company and its lineup of filmmakers. “Mark is smart and innovative. He has brought a lot of new talent into the industry,” says Greg Gibson, director of broadcast production at The Richards Group. “He is someone I often call on for input on new projects.”
“Mark is excellent at developing trust and building relationships, and that leads to long-lasting benefits from this,” agrees Energy BBDO VP/executive producer Jeff Drooger. “He knows how to build a company and always recruits professionals who are similar to him in their knowledge of the business, their follow-through and commitment to the jobs that they work on with the directors, agency and clients.”
A winner of four Cannes Lions as well as many other top advertising awards, Ali has quickly become one of the most admired and sought-after commercial directors in the industry. In 2015, he won an astonishing seven Pencils at the D&AD Awards, including a Yellow Pencil for Direction. He began his career on the agency side, working as an Art Director and Creative Director at German offices of Leo Burnett, JWT and McCann Erickson, and later served as Executive Creative Director at DDB, Berlin.
In 2010, Ali co-founded the creative boutique Elephant. A year later, it was named one of the world’s three most exciting new agencies at the Cannes Lions. In 2013, he turned to directing full time. Since then, he has created international campaigns for Vodafone, Google, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Orange Telecom and others. The Gunn Report recently named Ali to its list of the world’s Top Ten most-awarded directors.
Among recent projects is a darkly comic campaign for Mideast telecom giant Du. One spot, Tears of Winter, is presented as a promo for a film about a man who goes blind and is abandoned by his daughters. Its tagline is “some movies are too sad to watch alone.” The campaign took the Grand Prix at this year’s Dubai Lynx, the eighth time that Ali has been so honored. Ali is currently directing a campaign for KFC out of Impact BBDO Lebanon.
Thomas calls Ali’s work “clever and exceedingly smart.” “As a former creative director, he has the ability to recognize good ideas, potentially good ideas, and ideas that need to be challenged,” Thomas adds. “He improves every project he takes on; that’s his signature.”
Although consistently inventive and spotlessly executed, Ali’s work remains hard to classify. Its tone ranges from heartfelt to outrageously funny. “I approach every brief differently because each idea is a different animal,” he explains. “I change my research. I change my tools. I change the way I shoot. I like to experiment and I’m not afraid to experiment. I’ve done that throughout my career.”
Ali adds that he is excited to continue to push boundaries in the highly competitive U.S. advertising market through Cultivate.Media. “It’s a like-minded company and very eager to promote my work,” he says. “It’s a perfect fit.”
A Los Angeles-based writer/director, Matty Smith has worked in episodic television, branded content and advertising. He is co-creator of the TBS sit-com Prodigies. He also wrote a Lego Star Wars: A Droid’s Tale for Disney XD. He has written for FX and Nickelodeon, and wrote and directed several shows for Funny or Die. His work in advertising includes a campaign for Coke Zero starring Kevin Hart, Holiday Inn Express starring Jim Gaffigan, as well as branded content for Microsoft’s xBox and New Era.
Smith says that he was attracted to Cultivate by Thomas experience in developing directorial talent. “He obviously knows what he’s doing,” Smith says. “He got me. He got my humor and the quirkiness I go for. It thought I could have a place at Cultivate doing what I do best. It’s a good place to grow and get better.”
Thomas says that he was impressed by Smith’s creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. “I look for directors with a strong creative background,” he explains. “Matty understands his role as a director is to work collaboratively with agency creatives, and to help them by bringing ideas to the project that they haven’t thought of.”
Indigenous is the directing team of Marc Levy and Marc Salomon, known for their work in documentary films and reality-based branded content. Their work includes the series Undrafted for NFL Network and the branded documentary Peaking: A Big Wave Surfer's Perspective, produced for Red Bull. They have also created work for Subaru, Nieman Marcus, QVC, Intel and Dell. “To us, story is everything, authenticity is the vehicle and collaboration is the method,” Levy says. “We bring passion, experience and a sense for the authentic to everything we do.”